With great difficulty. That is to say, it's a bit like trying to describe your body posture to someone; you're inside your body, you can't see it-and so you assume your posture, or your walk, or whatever--is just an average, run-of-the mill posture or walk. It's only when someone tells you " Hey-you walk like a duck" that you have any idea you may be different. So it's the same with any "style" I might have--to me, it's no style at all, really. It's just me, responding to the task at hand with the tools I have available, the best way I know how. But then, I may walk like a duck for all I know.
Can you tell us about your career?
Much in the way I'd say have no over-arching style, I've had sort of a "non-career" in comics--at least, not a career in a conventional sense. My route to comics and animation was a long and circuitous one that took me 20 years or so through painting, art history, mixed-media collage,etc. before I got back to my first love, comics and narrative art. Unlike some comics folk who've embraced the idea of making comics more like art, with all the attendant trappings of the art world, I've sort of gone in reverse--run from the art world to comics, happily leaving those trappings behind. In the meantime, I've been very fortunate to have had a very fulfilling life in academia, teaching art and art history at various places, but for the last 17 years or so at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY, where I'm currently Chair of the Art department. Adelphi has been incredibly supportive of my endeavors as a cartoonist (my book "Fandancer" was funded by a faculty-development grant) & I'm excited to say we've recently introduced an inter-disciplinary minor in Video Game Design, through which I teach a class in Visual Narrative, using comics as both a means to an end via story-boarding, as well as an end in themselves. I also teach History of Animation and History of Comics.
What is the topic of ''Look out!! Monsters''?
"Monsters" was a long time ago, so it's hard to get my mind back in that head space. It started as a series of paintings and drawings exploring 20th century pop culture and the rise of the military industrial complex, if that's not over-burdened enough for you. Really, I loved drawing Karloff's Monster & screwing around with Lee/Kirby "FF" panels. The "Frankenstein" collages led to an artist's book, which I began just before Sept. 11, 2001 & worked on intensely in the days immediately following. We were living in Brooklyn then. But then I hit a wall, & the book lay unfinished for about 5 years. Things were just too close in those early days. Then, it was in the midst of the Bush years, in the thick of all that darkness, paranoia,lies and mis-information, that it all came together and I found a way to finish it. So--the best I can say from this vantage point, is that it's deeply informed by Sept.11 and its era.
What is the future of comics/graphic novels?
I get excited when I hear a speaker such as Geoffrey Long ( formerly of the Annenberg Innovation Lab USC) talk about "transmedia" and comics as virtual reality (as happened several years ago at the Billy Ireland Festival at Ohio State U.) wherein the "reader" can experience comics in a simulated 3-D environment & "walk around the word balloons". Or Scott McCloud talk about the potentialities of webcomics. Exciting ideas with lots of potential, to be sure-and we're experiencing some of these new manifestations of our medium today. But comics are quite perfect as they are, whatever form you find them. The sequencing of images, sometimes joined with text, sometimes linear, sometimes not-is as rich a medium as one can find, and has been part of human discourse as long as we have been able to conjure images in two-dimensions. Their "modern" incarnations(i.e.-20th century forward), stubbornly continue on, despite all predictions to the contrary, whether as comic strips, comic books, or graphic novels--and likely will continue to do so. The audience for comics- as graphic novels or as adjuncts to other media-(film & video games) will continue to grow, as will the number of practitioners and the diversity of approaches to the medium. What remains problematic is the economics(i.e.-how do the creators make money from their labors-specifically, independent creators outside of the corporate structure) and in the US at least, the dominance of a few very large corporations in defining the center of public, economic(if not creative) activity in the medium. If the revolution comes, and these mega-corporations are someday removed from their positions of omniscient power, that may change. But in the meantime, aside from the economics, comics is one of the healthiest, most vital art-forms today, with an abundance of talent and energy--and as long as it has that, its future is bright.
What aspect of visual storytelling do you like best?
It all comes back to drawing for me--or image-making, if I'm working in collage. But I love it all, really. Every aspect of this endeavor( in comics and animation) offers both challenges and rewards that engage me more fully than any other medium I've worked in. I'm working in animation at the moment, and one has really got to have all cylinders firing at once to make a film, not that one doesn't in comics, but there's that added element of time at play that complicates matters. This is what I've always wanted to do, and whether it's animation, comic books or--a seemingly conventional comic strip, such as my current project "Jetpack Jr." ( www.gocomics.com/jetpack-jr) I'm a happy person.